Russia’s Sanctions List: The Hottest List in Washington?

The U.S. officials now being sanctioned by Russia aren’t bumming out. They’re actually pretty thrilled.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence, outside Moscow on March 5, 2014.
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
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Sara Sorcher
March 20, 2014, 8:28 a.m.

Not to be out­done, Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin is strik­ing back at the U.S. with his own sanc­tions against Amer­ic­an of­fi­cials, just mo­ments after Pres­id­ent Obama an­nounced ex­pan­ded sanc­tions on Rus­sia.

Rus­sia’s fin­an­cial hit list tar­gets a hand­ful of seni­or White House of­fi­cials, such as seni­or ad­viser Daniel Pfeif­fer and deputy na­tion­al se­cur­ity ad­visers Ben Rhodes and Car­oline Atkin­son.

The list, on Rus­sia’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs web­site, also in­cludes key mem­bers of Con­gress, such as Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id; House Speak­er John Boehner; Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Robert Men­en­dez; and Sen. John Mc­Cain, who just re­turned from a trip to Ukraine.

The U.S. of­fi­cials on the list are now barred from en­ter­ing Rus­sia — but they don’t seem to be too con­cerned about it. In fact, the of­fi­cials ap­peared pretty pleased to be caught up in this high-stakes dip­lo­mat­ic tit-for-tat.

“The speak­er is proud to be in­cluded on a list of those will­ing to stand against Putin’s ag­gres­sion,” Boehner spokes­man Mi­chael Steel said.

An­oth­er Boehner spokes­man, Brendan Buck, tweeted to Pfeif­fer a one-word missive after the news broke: Con­grat­u­la­tions. 

On a more sober note, Men­en­dez used the news of his sanc­tion­ing to con­demn Putin. “Pres­id­ent Putin’s mil­it­ary in­va­sion and an­nex­a­tion of Crimea is bru­tal, totally un­ac­cept­able, and sadly re­turns us to a peri­od of Cold War ag­gres­sion and hos­til­ity,” he said in a state­ment. “It doesn’t have to be this way, but if stand­ing up for the Ukrain­i­an people, their free­dom, their hard-earned demo­cracy, and sov­er­eignty means I’m sanc­tioned by Putin, so be it.”

And Mc­Cain, amid ru­mors Rus­sia’s sanc­tions list would come soon, told the Daily Beast this week he “would be honored” to be on that list.

“I guess this means my spring break in Siber­ia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank ac­count in Mo­scow is frozen,” Mc­Cain said in a state­ment after the sanc­tions list was an­nounced. “Non­ethe­less, I will nev­er cease my ef­forts on be­half of the free­dom, in­de­pend­ence, and ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity of Ukraine, in­clud­ing Crimea.” 

Re­id, for his part, seems to have in­ven­ted his own hasht­ag in a tweet ad­dressed to the Rus­si­an lead­er: “Pres­id­ent Putin, it’s one thing to pick on me, but I wouldn’t mess with Mary. @Sen­Land­rieu #Sanc­tioned­By­Putin.” Re­id was re­fer­ring to Sen. Mary Landrieu, who was also on the sanc­tions list, pre­sum­ably be­cause of her past cri­ti­cism of Rus­sia for bar­ring Amer­ic­an ad­op­tions of Rus­si­an chil­dren. 

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4828) }}

Obama, speak­ing from the White House on Thursday, an­nounced a raft of new sanc­tions to ramp up the eco­nom­ic pres­sure on Rus­sia after it vi­ol­ated in­ter­na­tion­al law to an­nex Crimea. The new sanc­tions will ap­ply to 20 seni­or mem­bers of the Rus­si­an gov­ern­ment and oth­er “cronies,” of­fi­cials said, and the St. Peters­burg-based Rossiya Bank will be “frozen out of the dol­lar.” The sanc­tions will also tar­get Rus­sia’s fin­an­cial ser­vices, en­ergy, min­ing, and en­gin­eer­ing sec­tors.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Whip Dick Durbin was rumored to be on the list as well, and he wel­comed the pos­sib­il­ity. “My Lithuani­an-born moth­er would be proud her son made Vladi­mir Putin’s Amer­ic­an en­emies list,” Durbin said earli­er this week. Un­for­tu­nately for the sen­at­or, he didn’t make the cut. We’ve reached out to Durbin to see how he feels about be­ing left off the list.

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